That time three friends with special abilities were thrown to a new world where superpowers don't exist
“Hey, watch it!”
Nikola jumped to the side just in time, barely avoiding the man who barreled past him. A half-hearted apology rang out, already too distant to make out in the busy street. He looked after for a moment. He was sure he could catch up and give this guy a piece of his mind, but decided against it. He was already late, and chasing after some inconsiderate guy would just make him more late. He set his sights forward and continued to his destination; a nearby convenience store.
“Of all the things to forget, I forget the snacks,” Nikola muttered to himself. He went into the store and loaded a basket full of junk food. Usually, he would at least try to get something more healthy, but it was a special occasion. He had just gotten his acceptance letter to his university of choice, and his two best friends were coming with him. To celebrate this, they had a night of gaming, junk food, and sneaking alcohol from his parents in store. To top it off, his parents would be out of town for the weekend, so they had the house to themselves. Nikola couldn’t help but smile as he left the store, heading home.
A short walk later he was in front of his door. Two men stood there, waiting for him.
“Took you long enough,” the first said, rolling his eyes at Nikola.
“For real, Nick, where were you?” the second added.
“Oh can it Seth, I was getting snacks,” Nikola said. “And if you really didn’t want to wait outside, John could have gotten you in.” He stepped forward and unlocked the front door.
“That would be illegal,” the man identified as John said. He extended his hand but yanked it back when a spark flew between him and Nikola.
“Yeah, and sneaking into the faculty room to get test answers was completely above board,” Nikola shot back, smirking at his prank. He stepped inside, holding the door open and gesturing for his friends to enter.
“Nice place,” Seth said, inspecting his surroundings with an analytical gaze. The home was modest but extremely clean and tidy. Nikola’s mother had always been very up-tight about keeping the house clean.
“Seth, you’ve been in my house a thousand times, do you really have to say that every time?” Nikola said, exasperation dripping from his voice. John looked equally fed up with this joke.
“Just ignore him, he’s a dumbass,” John said, hitting Seth in the back of his bald head, his favourite way to tease his friend. “So what’s on the docket for tonight?”
“Hey, there’s no need for that,” Seth said, eyeing his lanky friend. He fell onto one of the seats. “I’d also like to know what the plan is though.”
“Well, my parents won’t be home for two days,” Nikola began, dramatically flipping his hair over his shoulder. “We have enough snacks to last us a week, I’m fully prepared to handle the fallout of raiding the alcohol cabinet, and…” he trailed off, reaching into his backpack. He pulled out a video game case. “I got us Generic Fighter 12.” Seth and John both stared in awe at the game Nikola held in his hands as if it was a Holy Relic.
“How did you get that? I thought it was sold out everywhere,” John said. “I couldn’t even find any copies in the backs of the stores!”
“I know some people in powerful places,” Nikola said, smirking.
“Uh-huh, yeah. You shorted out security cameras and stole that, didn’t you?” Seth asked.
“Yes, on the release day,” Nikola said, not an ounce of guilt in his voice.
“That’s a crime, Nick,” John said, trying to look menacing.
“Oh can it, Mr. Trespasser. If they didn’t want me to steal it, then they shouldn’t have tried that ‘limited supply’ crap with us,” Nikola shot back. He turned to Seth. “More importantly, how did you know?”
“I heard a rumor,” Seth said, cracking open a bag of potato chips. He tapped at his temple to drive the point home.
“Yeah…” Nikola said, his sky-blue eyes drilling into Seth. “You promised not to do that with us.”
“I didn’t have to,” Seth said. “I know you pretty well by now. Now pass me the that, I call the first game.”
“Like hell I’m throwing this, we can’t get another one,” Nikola said. “Also, I rightfully stole this, I got the first game.”
“Ugh, John, help me out here?” Seth asked. “I’ll let you be my player two!” John sighed, staring at his friends. He extended his arm to the side. It appeared right above the game and snatched it from Nikola’s grip.
“Hey, portals are cheating,” Nikola said, trying to grab the game back. It disappeared through the rift in spacetime that had formed above him before he could. He ran to grab it from John, but couldn’t reach his extended arm. “Can you stop being so tall?”
“Sorry, I want to get this party started,” John said. Nikola sighed and slouched over.
“You’ll do that, but you won’t drain the oceans to Mars,” he complained.
“No, no, no!” John said emphatically, crossing his arms in front of his face. “We are not having this argument again.” He strode over to the console and put the game in, tossing the first controller to Seth, and picking up the second for himself. He sat down next to Seth, booting up the game.
“Hey, I said I got the first game!” Nikola said, jumping on top of them. He grabbed Seth’s controller, attempting to wrestle it from his hands.
“First come, first serve!” Seth yelled. An invisible wave of force knocked Nikola off the couch, onto the ground. Seth laughed. “Haha, eat it.”
“Oh, you wanna play dirty, huh?” Nikola asked. He lifted his hand, pointing it at the television. It, along with the console and the table they stood on, was enveloped in a bubble of inky blackness, the light seemingly sucked away, right into Nikola’s hand.
“Oh come on, that’s a cheap shot,” Seth said.
“Don’t worry, I got us,” John said. He glanced at Nikola's feet. Nikola reacted just in time, blasting off the air just as a portal formed underneath his feet. Just as he did, the darkness surrounding the TV was filled with light again. He was flung over the couch, crashing into the wall behind it.
“Dude, where were you going to send me?” he asked, staggering to his feet.
“An active volcano,” John said, never turning away from the television screen.
“A volcano?!” Nikola asked, incredulous.
“You’d’ve been fine,” John said dismissively. Nikola frowned, sweeping his hair from his face. John wasn’t wrong, but he still wanted to get some vengeance. He leaped over the couch, grabbing John’s controller. John’s grip proved strong, and they were both dragged to the ground. They tried to fight the controller from each other's hands.
“Children,” Seth scoffed, looking down on them. John and Nikola shared a glance, then dove forward, tackling Seth. The couch flipped backward with the force, sending all three tumbling.
They wrestled against each other in the small space between the flipped-over couch and the wall, fighting for something much more abstract than the right to play the new game first. All three knew the winner would never let the losers live it down. It’s how their friendship had been since they were kids, always trying to one-up each other.
Seth was easily the strongest of the free, but this gave Nikola a golden opportunity, as he was grabbed by his friend and tossed to the side. He rolled once, then blasted off the floor, sailing across the couch once again. He landed in a crouch, grabbing the Player 1 controller. He shot his friends a very smug smile, celebrating his victory. It was short-lived, however, as both Seth and John charged him. Both grabbed onto the controller, engaging in a fierce tug-of-war. John aligned himself with Nikola, fighting to get the controller from Seth’s superior strength.
They were struggling against each other, when a blinding white light began emanating from the floor, seemingly centered on them. A black void opened up, slitting the light apart. They were all pulled in before they could react, and the rift closed above them.
“Where did you send us?” Nikola asked, barely taking in his surroundings. He spun to face John, but instead of the expected smug smirk, John looked shaken.
“This isn’t me,” Johns said.
“Guys,” Seth called, apprehensive. “Are we in space?” Nikola and John turned their attention to the vista around them.
A brilliant expanse of stars, galaxies, and nebulae surrounded them on all sides. Nikola noticed his hair, floating around his head. John’s leg twitched slightly, instinctively feeling for something to stand on. Seth tried to focus, but his mind felt closed off, almost muddy. They were all struck with silence, trying to make sense of what they saw.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” a voice from behind them called. They spun around and were even more awestruck by what they saw. The most beautiful woman any of them had ever laid eyes on, dressed in a waving white robe, with long black hair that seemed to perfectly flow into the expanse around her, almost as if the entire universe flowed out of her.
“Yeah,” all three said in unison, clearly referring to the woman instead of the view. She giggled softly.
“Ah, men. You never change,” she said playfully.
“Where are we?” Nikola asked, trying to regain his composure. The expanse around him was hard to pull away from, more so for him than the others. He could feel it in a much more visceral way than they could. He frowned, forcing himself to focus. “And who are you?”
“I’m Alice,” she said. “And you’re in my void.” She said this so casually it was like she was discussing the weather. It was an apt description. While the distant view was nothing short of spectacular, the space they were in was empty. Nikola wanted to call it cold, but even that fell short. There was no temperature here. There was nothing.
“Uhm,” Seth said, shaking his head to clear the fog that had formed. “Why are we in your void?” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “And why can’t I read your mind?”
“I’m glad you asked, Seth,” she said. He jumped back a bit at her calling him by name.
“How did you…” he began, trailing off. It was unnerving, being alone in his mind for the first time.
“Know your name?” Alice asked. She crossed her arms, pouting. “I don’t just bring anyone to my void, you know. You three are special, so I did my research.”
“So you know us too?” Nikola asked, trying to take a defensive stance, a task that proved to be harder than he thought due to the lack of a floor.
“Of course, Nick,” she replied, smiling kindly. “As for your other questions, Seth, you can’t read my mind because my ability is the only one that works here, and I brought you here because I was bored, and wanted to shake things up a bit!”
“What do you mean ‘shake things up a bit’?” Nikola asked. “And what makes us special?” He had given up on understanding everything and decided to just focus on what seemed most pressing. If he let his mind wander here he’d get distracted by what was around him.
“You’ll see…” Alice said ominously. “You’ll need these. It should help you not die.” A small backpack materialized in front of each of them. They reached out to grab them. “Try not to cause too much trouble over there!” The moment their hands made contact with the backpacks, they were standing in the middle of a rice field.
“Where the hell are we now?” Seth asked, irritation evident in his voice. He scratched his head, the sensation of his mind opening again sending shivers down his spine.
“We seem to be in a rice field,” John said, studying his surroundings. Seth shot him a glare.
“No need for sarcasm,” Seth said, his dark eyes filled with disdain.
“Oh for…” Nikola said. He was standing on one leg, lamenting his wet shoes. “When did I get shoes?!” Seth and John looked down to find their feet had also been clad in shoes, and those shoes were just as drenched. “Yeah, I’ve taken about as much of this as I can handle. John, take us home please.” John nodded and stared into the air in front of them. A moment passed.
“Any minute now,” Seth said, annoyed.
“I’m trying,” John said. His eyes narrowed.
“What do you mean ‘you’re trying’?” Seth yelled.
“I mean I am trying to open a portal to Nick’s house, and it isn’t working!” John shot back. He closed his eyes, furrowing his brow in concentration. A few moments later he opened his eyes, a worried expression on his face. “I can’t go anywhere. Can you guys use your powers?” Nikola looked at his hand. A small flame appeared. Both turned to Seth.
“Yeah, I can use mine,” he reassured, trying to wave away John’s worries.
“That is not what I wanted to hear,” John said. “For now, let’s just try to find civilization.” The others nodded. John scanned the horizon. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. A few fields were separated by footpaths, with a small dirt road cutting through close by. There was a small hill some ways away. It would be a good vantage point. John focused his ability. A portal appeared in front of him, seemingly shocking him slightly, He stepped through, closely followed by the others.
“John, are you ok?” Nikola asked. “You seem shaken.”
“I’m fine,” John said, shaking his head.
“Guys, over there,” Seth called, pointing to the horizon. They could see what seemed to be a decent-sized town in the distance. They shared a look, and John wordlessly opened up a portal to the town. They stepped out into an alleyway, occupied by a homeless man. He stared at them as if they were aliens.
“Uhh, hi,” John said. “Do you know where…”
The homeless man got to his feet and ran out of the alley, fear-stricken, leaving behind a pile of blankets resting against a trash can.
“What?” John asked the now empty air.
“The dude’s probably high on something,” Seth said, reading the graffiti on the walls. “His mind was a mess of shock and fear. I’m guessing he didn’t expect someone to pop out of nowhere.”
“Still, I feel like that was an overreaction, especially since he left everything behind,” John said. He took a few steps forward, peeking out of the alley. To their right, there seemed to be a residential area, with buildings growing taller to their left. “Come on guys, we need to figure out where we are.”
Nikola and Seth followed John out of the alley, and they began their trek down the street to the right.. Nikola took out his phone and tried to make a phone call.
“Dammit, no service,” Nikola said. “I don’t think we went too far, though. My watch seems to be more or less right.”
“Yeah, maybe we’re just in a different neighborhood,” Seth said, looking at the homes surrounding them. “Does any of this look familiar?”
“No, not really,” John said. He cast his eyes around, looking for anything that could give them a sense of where they were. The homes around them were pretty big, a far cry from the modest two-bedroom home he shared with his parents.
“Screw this,” Nikola said. He crouched down and slipped off his shoes, neatly setting them aside. “I’m gonna try to get a better view of all this. Keep my landing spot clear?”
“Sure thing,” Seth said. He and John both took a small step back.
Nikola bent his knees slightly, then jumped. The motion carried a lot more force behind it than an onlooker would expect, and sent him sailing high up into the air. He cast his eyes around, looking for anything that could be useful to them. He saw the rows of houses continuing on for quite a while. He spun around, looking into the city itself. He could make out cars weaving between the tall buildings. A few billboards stood out, but nothing he could make out at this distance. A few moments later he came falling back to the ground. He landed gracefully, the landing seemingly carrying no force whatsoever.
“I don’t recognize anything,” Nikola said, sighing. He slipped his shoes back on. “Though there is a convenience store around the corner. Maybe we can ask someone who works there.”
“It’s as good a plan as any,” Seth said, leading the way. “We can get something to drink too.” His brow was furrowed as he kept his mind open.
“Hear anything?” Nikola asked.
“Just the usual background thoughts,” Seth replied. “Also, the thoughts of someone who could use a bit of fire to dry our shoes…” He turned around, looking at the trail of wet footprints that followed them.
“Do you want to walk around with crispy shoes?” Nikola asked. “Cause if I use fire, that’s what will happen.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Seth said, waving his hand dismissively. They continued in silence until they reached the convenience store. It was a small building, blending almost perfectly with the houses around it. The only thing that set it apart was the brightly lit sign and a few parking spots.
“Good afternoon!” The store clerk called out as they walked in.
“Afternoon!” Nikola called out, trying to sound friendly. He made his way to the fridge, pulling three bottles of water out. John and Seth waited close to the counter, studying the shop. It was a nice place, clean, cared for, and with no sign of shortage. This was clearly a well-off area.
“Will that be all?” The clerk asked as Nikola placed the water bottles on the counter.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Nikola said, pulling out some bills to pay with. “Actually, if you don’t mind, can you tell us where-”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here kid,” The clerk said, his friendly facade dropping. “But this counterfeit cash won’t fly here.”
“Counterfeit!?” Nikola exclaimed. He grabbed the bill, examining it. He held it up to the light, then offered it back to the clerk, annoyed. “This is real cash, what are you on about?”
“Listen, kid, I’ve been running this shop for years,” the clerk said, running his hand through his silver hair. “You can’t slip this past me.” His anger subsided a bit. “You don’t seem to be lying though. Did you really not know this was counterfeit?”
“No, I…” Nikola began. He was distracted by John’s hand on his shoulder.
“Excuse us for a second, please, Sir,” John said. He led Nikola out of the store, Seth following behind, leaving a confused and irritated store clerk behind.
“What the hell is going on?” Nikola asked, throwing his hands into the air in frustration.
“I have a theory, but I don’t think you’ll like it,” John said.
“Let’s hear it,” Nikola said, resigning himself.
“Have I ever told you how my powers work exactly?” John asked.
“Probably, but I didn’t listen,” Nikola replied.
“I’ll give you the short version,” John said, crouching down. He grabbed a rock and began drawing on the sidewalk. “I can make portals through space, but not anywhere. It’s pretty much limited to places I’ve been, places within line-of-sight, or maybe through a wall or two if I am sure there is an open space on the other end I can land. It’s harder the more uncertain I am, and the bigger I want to make the portal.”
“That all makes sense,” Nikola said, eying the drawing. It looked like something out of an advanced physics textbook.
“So why can’t I make a portal home?” John asked. Nikola thought for a minute, then shrugged.
“It’s not just home. I can’t go anywhere,” John said. “At first I thought my powers were broken, but then I made a portal to that hill, and then to the alley. That’s when I began expecting something different. Tell me, when you were in the air, did you notice anyone flying?” Nikola thought back, then frowned.
“Now that you mention it, no, I didn’t,” he said. He had an idea of what John was thinking, and just like he predicted, he didn’t like it.
“I haven’t heard a speedster either,” Seth chimed in. He was clearly a step ahead in the conversation.
“So what’s your theory?” Nikola asked John, although he was already pretty sure he knew.
“We aren’t just in a different place, Nick,” he said.
“We’re on a completely different Earth.”
“Sir! You need to come see this! It’s happening!”
The woman who made this proclamation was gesturing excitedly, pointing to the large display at the end of the room. It showed a map, with a small blinking red dot. To the left of the map was a long string of numbers, meaningless to anyone who didn’t know what they represented.
“Are you sure?” an official-looking man in a crisp suit asked.
“Without a doubt, Sir. It’s almost exactly like last time,” the woman replied.
“Almost?” The man prompted.
“Yes, Sir. Almost,” the woman said. “It seems that there were some disturbances in the anomaly this time. Three, to be exact.”
“So they’re here?” The man asked.
“I’m not sure,” the woman replied, honestly. “But I think it’s very likely.”
“Good work,” the man said. He turned and exited the control room. He walked a short distance, entering a new room. It was supposed to be a living quarter, but it looked more like a prison cell.
“Yo, bossman!” A young man in a jumpsuit jumped from the bed, flashing a smile. “What can I do ya for?”
“It happened, Falcon, I’m sending you to investigate,” the older man said.
“Sounds good, boss,” the younger man said. His smile darkened.
“Where am I heading?”